From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
[PCUSANEWS] CWS launches Africa campaign
PCUSA NEWS <PCUSA.NEWS@ecunet.org>
Mon, 19 Apr 2004 15:03:51 -0500
Note #8202 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:
April 19, 2004
CWS launches Africa campaign
Agency to address myriad social ills, stimulate development
by Ann Walle
Church World Service
NEW YORK - The new board of directors of Church World Service (CWS) has
approved its plans for a multi-year Africa Initiative.
The program is intended to help Africa's at-risk populations -
children, people with HIV/AIDS, and all those "uprooted" by war, disaster or
turmoil, including refugees, migrants, and internally displaced persons. CWS
also will give special attention to the needs and rights of African women and
The global humanitarian agency, a presence in Africa for 50 years,
will continue its current programs across the continent, said its executive
director, the Rev. John L. McCullough, but the new initiative "will add
distinctive new programs that grow out of the critical role that Africans
will play in constructing their future."
The programs are Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution; Durable
Solutions for the Displaced; Hunger and Poverty Alleviation; Water for Life;
Focus on Mano River region
The CWS efforts will be concentrated in the West African countries of
the Mano River region - Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea - as well as
Angola, Sudan and Tanzania. Those countries chosen after consultations with
The new chair of the CWS board, Betty Voskuil, who works for the
Reformed Church of America as coordinator of diaconal ministries and hunger
education, called the new initiative "a cutting-edge endeavor" in which
"broad commitment and collaboration are vital."
McCullough said CWS is "joining with the All-Africa Conference of
Churches, African regional councils of churches, U.S. churches, the United
Nations, humanitarian agencies, and civil society institutions" in committing
funds and resources to the effort.
Most of Africa's stark problems have not eased in recent years. It
has about 3.5 million people living in refugee camps and other temporary
shelters. In sub-Saharan Africa, 28 million people have HIV/AIDS. Africa has
7 percent of the world's HIV/AIDS orphans, many of whom are now heads of
households, and 10 million children traumatized by war. One-third of the
residents of sub-Saharan Africa have no access to clean water. And 50 million
children, most of them girls, are denied basic education.
In the face of those realities, McCullough expressed confidence in
CWS's "tremendous vision and capacity for response" and "the collective
efforts of those who have the courage of faith to take on big challenges."
"The intent of Church World Service's initiative is long-term
commitment, support, and programs that step beyond traditional relief aid,"
McCullough said. "We're going to be creative and focus on sustainable
development projects, skills, and education."
"The Africa Initiative," he went on, "is a statement of recognition
of the monumental human suffering, pain, and brokenness that is an everyday
experience on the world's largest and yet least developed continent."
He told the CWS board, "We must do all that we can to make sure that
when the day arrives when these kinds of statistics are finally obsolete, we
will be able to say, 'The children of Africa are alive.'"
The Rev. Bruce Menning, a CWS board member who works as director of
mission services for the Reformed Church in America, talked about a
distinctive peacemaking program, CWS's Eminent Persons Ecumenical Program for
Africa (EPP), that honors the tradition of drawing on the wisdom of tribal
elders to mitigate conflict.
The EPP will enable African church leaders to be proactive in
peacebuilding and conflict resolution in their countries. and will ensure
that the voice of the African ecumenical family is heard, Menning said.
He told the board that CWS and Africa are "a kairos match" at a
decisive, opportune moment in history. He praised CWS's "generosity of spirit
at the ecumenical table."
"Peacebuilding is the linchpin of any of this work," Menning said,
even when the immediate need is for food or water. "When conflict disrupts
civil society, it's impossible to get anything accomplished," he said.
The Rev. Haruun L. Ruun, executive secretary of the New Sudan Council
of Churches, sent a message of appreciation for "the partnership of CWS in
prayer, encouragement, and support for the peoples" of southern Sudan and
other marginalized Africans. "They have suffered too long, and now put their
hopes in peace that will prevail at community, regional and national levels,"
Ruun wrote. "Until our cries for peace are heard and answered, our cries for
food will never end."
One Africa Initiative program, the CWS Seminars on Trauma Awareness
and Recovery (STAR) - a partnership with Eastern Mennonite University's
Conflict Transformation Program - is designed to train African interfaith,
civil and public servants in trauma counseling and its role in preventing
A STAR seminary took place in Sierra Leone in January, and a second
was held in Liberia STAR in March.
Another Africa Initiative program will help establish School Safe
Zones across sub-Saharan Africa based on a model being tested in Kenya that
involves participation by government and school-system officials, educators
and church leaders.
Kirsten Laursen, CWS's deputy director for programs, said the School
Safe Zone project is based on the idea that "schools must be free of conflict
and violence, including military conscription, if Africa's youngest
generation is to learn and develop. As a complement to that effort, CWS is
planning to support secondary education for children in refugee camps and
other temporary homes, through its Durable Solutions for the Displaced
Currently, international agreements allow only for primary education
in refugee camps. CWS hopes to enlist the support of U.S. foundations,
churches, businesses, service groups and schools.
Agnes Abuom, another CWS board member, the African President of the
World Council of Churches and chair of Kenya's National Task Force for CWS
School Safe Zones, brought greetings from what she called "the wonderful
continent." She said she is hopeful although she realizes "how high the walls
Abuom applauded the recent appointment of Rajyashri Waghray as CWS's
director of education and advocacy, which she said are keys to the making of
peace with justice. "Without justice in our diaconal work, the walls will
remain high," she said.
Solutions for the displaced
Mary Kuenning Gross, a CWS board member who is also executive for
refugee ministries of the United Church of Christ (UCC) and the chair of the
board's Immigration and Refugee Program Committee, spoke about the urgency of
confronting the staggering problem of Africa's millions of uprooted people.
"It used to be we worked just in resettlement," she said. "Now,
solutions for refugees have to be tied in to their well-being in their own
countries." She urged support of national councils of churches, which
"promote reconciliation in these communities."
Gross reported on a CWS development program in Angola that helps
returning refugee women learn to sew and embroider to earn money to help
support their families.
"Women in one class are working together to earn enough money to buy
and share a sewing machine and to start a business together," she said. "This
is what empowerment and sustainability are really about."
For those who may never be repatriated, she said, organizations like
CWS and the UCC "are putting more intensive work into improving the lives of
people who are displaced."
CWS announced that strategies for addressing food insufficiencies in
Africa will emphasize programs that protect land rights, support nutrition
education and food diversification and integrate new and better technology.
Johnny Wray of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the chair
of CWS's emergency response committee, spoke of his "lasting impression of
Africa as the Garden of Eden and the devastation of the Apocalypse, all
"The Church World Service Africa Initiative is important," he said.
"The hunger- and poverty-alleviation component ... is important ... because
it will help people feed themselves, help them rise from crushing poverty,
help them live in peace and die in dignity." Noting that some scholars
believe the Biblical Garden of Eden was in Africa rather than Mesopotamia, he
said the CWS initiative "may allow us in some small way help our first family
reclaim the Garden."
The Rev. Jaime Quiqones, a CWS board member and chair of its social
education and development committee, said the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa is
"a personal issue, something that affects the whole community."
Quiqones, a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), said after
citing HIV/AIDS statistics, told his fellow board members, "We can be far
away from these realities, but we must remember the children." He predicted
that the CWS initiative "will cause a chain reaction around Africa and around
The CWS approach to battling HIV/AIDS includes programs for
least-served populations, including women, orphan children and displaced
people, and emphasizes awareness, education, working to end the stigma of
HIV/AIDS, and community-building.
CWS also announced a renewed commitment to ensuring "water for all,
for health, for food, for the future." The Rev. Nicholas Genevieve Tweed,
pastor of Queens New York's Macedonia African Methodist Episcopal Church and
a CWS board member, told his colleagues: "Water is a gift from God; we can't
control it. We must exercise stewardship of it. Everyone has a right to it.
We must ensure that all people have a right to partake of pure water for
Africans helping Africans
CWS's practice in nearly all its endeavors is to work with indigenous
partners - Africans helping Africans. Voskuil said she was impressed with the
agency's work with indigenous groups in more than 80 countries.
Jennifer Riggs of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the
chair of CWS's planning committee, said, "To work in Africa, relationships
with (African) church constituents may ease the way more than ties to other
CWS is a cooperative ministry of 36 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican
denominations that provides sustainable self-help and development,
disaster-relief and refugee programs worldwide. It is a close ally of the
National Council of Churches.
For more information about the Africa Initiative, visit the CWS Web
site at www.churchworldservice.org.
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